I Swear, It Really Did
When I was a tiny child, I was positive that, if I could become a cowboy, everything would be alright. Life on the plains, sitting on my pony, deeply home in my saddle, eating beans and playing my guitar—all would surely mend my tiny, wounded, still unnamed lesbian heart. Disguised to myself as a cowboy, everything would be alright. Then I could rescue the threatened homesteaders; then I could protect the lovely maidens. Of this I was certain. It all hinged on playing the guitar—that was the entryway to heaven. Hence, playing the guitar became an obsessive desire of my youth. My parents eventually caved to my almost-frantic demands. At the age of eight, I began my foray into the self-soothing world of guitar-playing.
My first guitar was made of laminated brown not-quite wood with a looming black stencil of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco. Mr. Galucci, owner of Galucci’s Music Store on Lackawanna Avenue, handed it to me oh, so kindly. I held it close and didn’t let go. I continued my lessons, Wednesday afternoon after Wednesday afternoon, throughout my childhood. My bucking bronco guitar eventually morphed into a lovely Gibson acoustic. My folk music morphed into cord picking and, in high school, into some light classical playing. I loved the physicality of the sound in my body, the intimacy of the weight of the guitar pressing against me, the rhythm that I didn’t know I had, rhythm emerging in spite of my crushing self-consciousness. I played alone or I played with Mr. Galucci, in his little windowless studio—that was the range of my expression. And in those moments in which I became the sound, I was freed.
And then I stopped. The adolescent narrative I created demanded that I had to play for others, externalizing this gift, this intimate and private monogamous love affair. Yet my guitar and I literally could not comfortably leave my room. Rather than confronting this limitation, I just stopped playing. My parents didn’t push the issue (as a parent, I hope I that would have). I simply collapsed into silence. I carried the Gibson with me, untouched, throughout my active addiction, eventually leaving it behind in the ugliness and chaos of a horrid breakup. The Gibson was the true loss there.
Years ago in recovery, in a surge of energy, I bought a nice guitar—not a Gibson, but a good enough acoustic. I prattled on it a bit, playing over and over my few remembered songs. However, soon she, too, sat in the corner, gathering dust. Years have since passed. Yet in these past few months, in this angst of my pre-pre-pre-retirement transition, I have found a little guitar-litany softly emerging inside my head, whispering, “When I work less, I’ll start playing….”. “When I have more time, maybe I’ll …”. Not really believing this beckoning, I allowed it to be.
Cut to last Sunday. Sitting in my 12 Step meeting, I looked down at the probably fake yet still lovely Persian rug on the floor. What was that raised design, that purple shape on it? What? About an inch from my foot, facing me, was— a purple guitar pick! (See picture—a reenactment). Really? I picked it up. Yep, a guitar pick, exactly the firmness I favored. For me. Cosmically delivered. I was stunned.
I went home, without thought, went to the loft, rescued the guitar and carried her downstairs, out of her seclusion. She is lovely. I bought a tuner (not the pitch pipe kind from my childhood, but of some evolved vibrational thing—life has changed.) I hold her now close to me. My fingers are tender and slow, yet the chords, the notes, deeper than thought, more elemental than my brain, awaken slowly in me. Can I give myself this immensity of pleasure? Can I satisfy this desire, this physical longing to fall into my own rhythms, into my own music? I don’t know. But surely the universe wants me to try.